The last stop on this year’s fly fishing road trip was our return to NF Clearwater and Kelly Creek. It was also the first stop as we started our trip east to Montana in late June. Hard to believe six weeks had passed when we arrived on August 10.

Run on Upper NF Clearwater River | www.johnkreft.com

We arrived in the afternoon and decided to wait until shade was on the water because there didn’t appear to be any bugs hatching or flying around.

Upper NF Clearwater River | www.johnkreft.com

What should I tie on my tippet? I decided to go with my Beetle Betty first and when that didn’t work, a Purple Haze. These have been very effective flies in many waters we’ve fished on our fly fishing road trip.

Neither of these flies worked, so I decided to give it up and wait until evening.

What should I do? How about make a few notes for a future RiverKeeper Flies post?

Writing Blog on NF Clearwater River | www.johnkreft.com

We spent the last hour of daylight trying to find fish.

Fishing Upper NF Clearwater River | www.johnkreft.com

A handful showed themselves between 9 and 9:30, mostly on Dancingtrout’s fly.

NF Clearwater Cutthroat Trout | www.johnkreft.com

I gave up and continued to watch Dancingtrout land a few more. She graciously loaned her rod to me for the last cast and I was fortunate to land this nice Cutthroat Trout.

NF Clearwater Cutthroat with Borrowed Rod | www.johnkreft.com

They ended up taking a Compara Spinner.

Galloup's Compara Spinner - Side View | www.johnkreft.com

In the morning I decided to tie on a couple of Perdigon nymphs. What??? In know ..

If you’ve followed my RiverKeeper Flies blog for a while you know I almost always fish dry flies. Why? Because I enjoy watching fish rise to the fly. Simple as that. I admit nymph fishing can be much more productive at times, but that’s what I choose to do.

We fished some good water the previous night and honestly, I expected a few bigger trout.

I looked around for my Euro nymph reel I use for the 10 foot 3 weight Beulah fly rod. Evidently, it’s at home in a safe place! I’ll tell you, I need a checklist for the checklist!

Oh well, time for another “plan b”.

I pulled out the Winston BIIX 9 foot 5 weight, which is my favorite fly rod, and began tying on a nymph setup.

(I’m hoping my friends Bill reads this post because I can see him laughing out loud as he reads it.)

Most of my fly fishing in Idaho and Montana has been with 4X tippet and it’s worked very well for me. The setup is stronger than my normal 6X tippet I use on my home waters, the Metolius River. Euro nymphing requires very light monofilament (or fluorocarbon) to help the nymph quickly sink to the river bottom. I pulled off a 3 foot section and tied it to the 4X tippet with a triple surgeon knot and left a 6 inch tag to tie on a second nymph. Simple right? The fish will tell me if it works.

I tied on a Pheasant Tail Perdigon Variant for the point or bottom fly and an Olive Perdigon as a dropper on the tag and waded out in the river and started to cast. The third cast I hooked up on this fish.

NF Clearwater Whitefish with Olive Perdigon | www.johnkreft.com

It took the Olive Perdigon. After releasing the whitefish, I cast again and quickly hooked another fish… a second whitefish…and again…another whitefish. When I stopped fishing, the count was Whitefish 8 Trout 0!

Evidently, that’s why I enjoy dry fly fishing more, although Dancingtrout hooked and landed a couple of small whitefish with dry flies on the Clark Fork!

I was hoping to find a larger Cutthroat or two with my nymphs.

To be fair, I was casting to the edges of deep water. I’m guessing Cutthroat might like holding in a little slower and shallower water.

We continued driving downstream looking for a campsite on the NF Clearwater and all of them were full.

Turns out, Kelly Creek was calling, and we drove upstream after reaching the confluence with the NF Clearwater. Noone was camping at the Junction Creek Trailhead bridge where we’ve stayed before, so that’s where we stopped.

I pulled out a Double Haul IPA and we sat by the river waiting for rising trout. The wind started blowing and I decided to wait awhile…and write part of today’s post along the river. 

After the wind died down a little, the fish began rising and I pulled out my fly rod and started fishing. 

I couldn’t see any bugs on the water, but decided to tie on a size 16 Sparkle Dun – March Brown color.

It worked. The fish came up repeatedly for my fly. I fished it for about two hours and ended up landing 16 Cutthroat! Here is an image of the fly after getting trashed, but it still brought fish to my net.

Sparkle Dun from Kelly Creek | www.johnkreft.com

Here are a couple…

Kelly Creek Cutthroat Trout | www.johnkreft.com
Kelly Creek Cutthroat | www.johnkreft.com

And this beautifully colored Cutthroat.

Here is Dancingtrout fishing at one of our favorite spots.

Fishing at Kelly Creek's Junction Creek Trailhead Bridge | www.johnkreft.com

The next morning, we drove upstream to a spot we’ve fished before.

Kelly Creek Pool | www.johnkreft.com

A few fish rose sporadically, but again I couldn’t see anything on the water. Perhaps there may have been some spinners. Since I still had my trusty Sparkle Dun tied on, I choose to start with it…first cast I hooked a small 9 inch Cutthroat.

We moved to a different spot upriver and another four were landed, the biggest was between 10 – 11 inches.

Next hole, seven fish which were under 9 inches and a couple 10 – 11 again.

Total fish for the day, 14.

Not big fish, but enough to keep me busy for a while.

I easily missed four or five others.

These fish can be tough to hook because they rise so slow. You can see many of them rise in the clear water. It’s a challenge for me not to take the fly away from the fish before being fully hooked. I felt many fish, but couldn’t get a good hook set.

Moving downstream, we drove past the confluence with the NF Clearwater hoping to find a few larger fish.

It rained as we drove downstream and I chose not to fish in it. It might have been the fish gods telling us our fly fishing trip had finally come to an end.

We camped about 4 to 5 miles before our turnoff to Pierce, ID and the long road home.

The rain ended and we decided to fish the last hour of light. Here is a spot we tried.

Fishing Lower NF Clearwater River | www.johnkreft.com

A couple small fish came to hand using a Sparkle Dun to imitate this small Baetis mayfly we found on the water.

NF Clearwater Baetis Mayfly | www.johnkreft.com

We walked upstream and found this spot…

NF Clearwater River | www.johnkreft.com

…and caught a few more fish. I found a nice pocket with fish rising. They were taking the Compara Spinner. It’s my new favorite spinner pattern, replacing the standard Rusty Spinner Biot Body fly I tie. It’s basically the same fly, but is tied with an upright wing to make it more visible. (Thanks Kelly Galloup!)

Galloup's Compara Spinner - Front View | www.johnkreft.com

The fly is similar to the natural we found…which I think was an Epeorus mayfly.

Epeorus Mayfly Spinner | www.johnkreft.com

Yes, the color of the natural is much lighter, but when selecting a fly, I’ve always said…size, profile, and then color. The fish will tell you.

NF Clearwater River Cutthroat with Compara Spinner | www.johnkreft.com

And they seemed to like it.

They were still rising as I reeled in because it was getting too dark to see.

Both the NF Clearwater and Kelly Creek are scenic places to fish.

Kelly Creek | www.johnkreft.com

It’s the end of our fly fishing for this trip…11 rivers (several more than once) in 50 days and 4,198 miles…

Enjoy…go fish, stay safe!

(PS – you might enjoy my Fly Fishing Road Trips page where I have links to all the trips we’ve taken.)

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4 Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing your road trip adventures. They are really cool.
    In light of the Covig-19, what did you do differently this year as opposed to previous years? I have a road trip coming up next month and would appreciate your thoughts.
    Thanks!

  2. John,
    Enjoyable reading of your adventures! Glad you guys had a great trip! Hopefully we can get past Covid in the next year and get back to enjoying a few Double Hauls, and meet up at the expos! Or perhaps enjoy a brew at a pub in Bend!

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